A clever evergreen garden with a touch of grandeur

October 16th, 2021
Posted In: Garden trends & design

An evergreen garden looks as good in winter as it does in summer.

And taking that all gardens need maintenance, it’s also relatively easy-care.

I’ve just visited a beautiful evergreen garden in Norwich, which also has some brilliantly clever touches that would suit any garden. It belongs to Roger Lloyd and Stephen Sendall.

And it’s also a sloping garden, so it shows how evergreen garden design can be a good solution to gardening on hill.

Parterre overlooking Norwich Cathedral

Stephen and Roger wanted something to frame but not distract from the stunning view. The low evergreen parterre is ideal.

Elements of grandeur scaled down

Roger is a volunteer with the Norfolk Gardens Trust, which promotes and protects gardens and landscapes, both ancient and contemporary, in Norfolk. There are garden talks and visits to some of the great and small gardens of Norfolk. For example, there’s Fiddian’s Follies at Upwood Farm and the grand gardens of Houghton Hall and Sandringham. The Norfolk Gardens Trust has just published ‘Enticing Paths – A Treasury of Norfolk Gardens & Gardening’, which is reviewed later in this post.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that a friend once described Roger and Stephen’s garden as ‘having all the elements of a grand garden, but scaled down to a small garden size.’

Roger Lloyd and Stephen Sendall

Roger Lloyd and Stephen Sendall

Take the ‘classical’ garden shed, for example. It looks like a stone-built folly but it is a perfectly ordinary standard garden shed with a facade. Stephen built it himself and it simply stands in front of the shed. They haven’t even changed the door.

From garden shed to classical folly

Stephen built this classical facade for a standard garden shed. You can see that the frontage stands in front of the shed – there have been no structural alterations to the shed itself.

Creating a garden on a hill

When Roger and Stephen moved in, forty years ago, the garden was a bare hillside. Many people terrace sloping gardens, in order to create flat spaces for planting. Roger and Stephen decide to carve out one terrace just outside the back of the house.

The excavation of this terrace meant there was lots of spare earth. So they used it to create a flat area at the top of the garden. But they retained the slope between the two flat spaces.

An evergreen garden protects against wind

However the other aspect of gardening on a hill is that it can be windy. So that’s where the evergreen element starts to be so valuable, because it provides year round protection. Hedges filter wind very effectively.

In fact, there was apparently a mini-cyclone in Norwich when I visited, but the garden still felt very protected.

How to use hedging and evergreen shrubs to create a garden with year-round interest

As the evergreen hedging goes up the hill, it curves in and out to create a serpentine ‘green path’ of lawn in the middle. It’s hard to see what size or shape the garden really is – it feels like part of a much larger space.

Roger and Stephen decided to have a hedge on either side, running up both sides of the garden. But they curved the hedge line, creating a serpentine garden shape. You can’t see from the bottom of the garden to the top. But it leads the eye on. You know there is something just around the corner.

See here for a post on choosing the right hedge for your garden.

The curved hedging created storage spaces

Where the hedges curved into the garden, they left spaces between it and the boundary. Stephen and Roger use the largest one as a concealed work area, with compost bins and wheelbarrows.

Use the space behind a hedge to create storage

As the hedges curve inwards from the boundary, there is ‘wasted space’. Roger and Stephen have created working and storage areas here, hidden away behind the hedges.

The curve of the hedge also allows the humdrum sides of the ‘classical’ garden shed to be hidden.

A brilliant trick to make an ordinary garden shed look fabulous

The classical garden shed tucks in beside one of the curving hedges, which conceals its practical garden shed sides.

Over the past decade, garden design has been angular, with blocks and straight lines. In many ways, straight lines can make the most of limited space in gardens. But curving garden designs also have much to offer, as you can see in this post on curved gardens.

Roger refers to the lawn as a ‘green path’. It runs up, curving sinuously, between the two sides of hedging. The garden is rectangular and probably around 125ft long and 25ft wide, but the curving hedging disguises both the size and shape.

At the top, there is a bench and an archway to one side, flanked by a niche with a classical urn. ‘Over the years, the green path has got narrower and the hedges have got wider,’ he says.

At the top of the garden, they have also created an interesting striped hedging. By alternating a yellow-leafed cypress (such as ‘Goldcrest’) and a dark green Irish yew, they’ve created contrasting columns.

Clever garden design tricks with evergreen hedging

The striped hedge is created by alternating a yellowy-green cyprus (such as ‘Goldcrest’) with tall Irish yews.

There are tips on choosing conifers for your garden here.

The big reveal at the top

When you go through the yew archway at the top of the garden, you are confronted by a stunning view of the city of Norwich, with Norwich Cathedral at its heart.

Norwich Cathedral from the parterre

Norwich Cathedral from the parterre. The sky was very obligingly blue! Much of the topiary in the foreground is box, but it hasn’t yet been affected by box blight or the box tree moth caterpillar. See here if you’re worried about how to spot the box tree moth caterpillar and how to treat it.

Roger says that this created a design dilemma. The view is so special that they didn’t want anything in the garden to compete with it. But, on the other hand, they wanted something strong enough to balance it out.

They decided on a classical parterre of box and yew hedging. ‘We keep it low so that you can see the view over it,’ says Roger. It’s a simple, but beautiful framework for the view.

There are issues with box hedging in the UK and other countries at the moment because of box tree moth caterpillar and box blight. Here is a post on the three best alternatives to box for topiary.

Evergreen garden borders

Roger says that they’d originally planned to have a herbaceous border. But after a few years of trying to plant and look after one on a slope, they decided that a border full of shrubs was the only way forward.

Shrubs are easier to look after than perennials or annuals. They’re also good for a slope because they get their roots down, helping to secure the earth.

Evergreens do require annual pruning and clipping. But they don’t require the constant dead-heading, staking, lifting and dividing or re-planting that you have to do to maintain a full herbaceous border.

And shrubs or trees are excellent for a slope because their roots grow deep over time and help hold the soil in place. See here for tips on planting on a slope.

Create an evergreen garden border with shrubs and foliage contrast

Roger replaced the herbaceous border with mainly evergreen shrubs. Foliage contrast creates interest. The blue foliage is Rue ‘Jackman’s Blue’ and the topiary shapes are Lonicera ‘Baggeson’s Gold’.

The border is therefore based on foliage contrast and shape. Spiky leaved plants such as yucca, phormium and astelia contrast with the round shapes of box and yew and the feathery foliage of ferns. Blue-grey rue leaves contrast with the yellow-greens of conifers.

Some of the evergreen shrubs in the borders are carved into topiary shapes. But even these only need cutting two or three times a year. Compare that to the work involved in caring for colourful annual border plants, or even some perennials.

Punctuate evergreen gardens with ornaments

All gardens need punctuation points. For most people, that’s achieved with flower colour.

But if your garden is almost completely evergreen, think about ornaments and sculpture as focal points and punctuation points.

Use ivy as an evergreen ground cover to suppress weeds

Add drama to an evergreen garden with ornaments, pots or statuary. This also shows how Roger and Stephen have replaced a border with an ivy ground cover.

Where a hedge curves in, Roger has added a cherub. And he’s cut a niche in the hedging, which frames an urn.

And Stephen made an impressive obelisk from wood, and painted it. It’s a focal point halfway up the hill, surrounded by cyclamen in autumn.

Home-made and painted obelisk

Stephen made this obelisk himself and painted it. ‘We couldn’t afford the real thing in stone,’ says Roger.

There’s a post here about placing ornaments and sculpture in your garden.

A clever use of ivy

Ivy is one of our most common evergreen garden plants. For many people, it’s a weed. Yet it is hugely valuable to wildlife and requires very little looking after. Many varieties tolerate full sun to full shade, and will withstand drought and wet weather.

You do need to cut it back regularly or it will take over, but otherwise it isn’t fussy.

Roger and Stephen have used ivy as ground cover on the shady side of the garden, instead of a border. This means virtually no weeding, so although they do have to cut the ivy back, it’s still time-saving.

They also have ivy on the garden steps, across the risers. This winds romantically around an urn.

Creative ways with ivy

Ivy grows across the risers on the steps and curves romantically around an urn. And the picture below it shows an ivy covered wall. Roger has placed a trellis a few inches in front of it, creating a layered effect. The ivy is also ground cover in front of the ferns. They’ve bought as many different kinds of ivy as they could find.

There is an ivy covered wall near the house. They’ve placed a trellis in front of ivy and will be growing Star jasmine up it. This creates an interesting layered effect.

Many people hate ivy. And it’s on the noxious weeds list for the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Some people say it damages buildings and trees. Others point to research by both English Heritage and the RHS showing that it’s more likely to protect brickwork from heat, cold, humidity and pollution than damage it. Studies have also shown that it’s good at removing pollutants from the air.

So perhaps more research is needed.

What about flowers in an evergreen garden?

I would describe Roger and Stephen’s garden as over 95% evergreen. But they do have some flowers, mainly in pots and urns. These are close to the terrace.

Easy evergreen garden tips

Most of the garden’s flowers are in pots, such as these pretty begonias in a classical urn. The splash of colour pops out against the green.

Of course, you can also use evergreens for year-round interest in pots, which works well if you have flower colour elsewhere in the garden.

And many evergreen shrubs have their own flowers. For example, there’s a choisya, which is a particularly good flowering evergreen shrub. It flowers for an exceptionally long season.

There are also wilder areas on the ‘green path’ or lawn, with swathes of cyclamen around the obelisk.

It’s easy to grow bulbs in a lawn. Provided you don’t mow the grass while the leaves of bulbs and cyclamen are green, there’s very little you need to do.

See the garden in video

You’ll be able to see much more of this beautiful evergreen garden, with its clever ideas, in this video, so do watch!

Enticing Paths – A Treasury of Norfolk Gardens & Gardening

The Norfolk Gardens Trust has just published a compendium of fascinating articles on five centuries of Norfolk gardens and gardening. Edited by Roger Last, these are detailed, expertly researched accounts of famous gardens – such as the Bishop’s Palace Garden in Norwich, the unique 20th century Templewood and its ‘Petit Trianon’ and the great Parterre at Blickling Hall.

Enticing Paths also tells the stories of some of the people who created gardening as we know it today. They include James Pulham who created Pulhamite, a light, realistic artificial rock, used in the Royal gardens at Sandringham. The Norwich firm of Boulton & Paul supplied iron garden equipment and even gorgeous prefabricated conservatories, ferneries and greenhouses all over Britain, including to Queen Victoria. And there is the clearly eccentric but determined snowdrop breeder, Heyrick ‘Tony’ Greatorex, the Norfolk and many more.

The book is illustrated by many historic photographs and wonderful old garden plans. £30 from the Norfolk Gardens Trust.

Enticing Paths

Enticing Paths, available from the Norfolk Gardens Trust.

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2 comments on "A clever evergreen garden with a touch of grandeur"

  1. Candace says:

    This is one of the most amazing gardens I’ve ever seen! I wish I wasn’t so envious. ;0) Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and inspiring garden.

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